Racism charges leveled against Guilford County

by Amy Kingsley

Black leaders from the county and state gathered July 7 outside the courthouse in downtown Greensboro to oppose a culture of racism they said has engulfed Guilford County.

‘“The firing of brother Willie Best was the final straw that broke the camel’s back,’” said the Rev. Gregory Headen, pastor of Genesis Baptist Church.

Best, the former county manager, received his walking papers after a contentious county commissioners meeting on June 29. He was the first African American to serve in the county’s top appointed position.

Best’s firing wasn’t the only complaint leveled against county and city leaders. The Rev. Nelson Johnson railed against police surveillance of members of Greensboro’s black community. He drew parallels to the culture preceding the Klan-Nazi shootings on Nov. 3, 1979.

About a dozen black leaders took turns addressing a crowd of about 100 onlookers. They hammered home the need for unity in the push to address racism in the community.

‘“Yes it is Guilford County, but it’s not just Guilford County,’” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the NC National Association for the Advancement of Colored People State Conference of Branches. ‘“In North Carolina what we need is a movement. It can be hazardous to be poor and a person of color in North Carolina.’”

‘— Amy Kingsley